Monthly Archives: June 2019

Alice-Miranda Keeps the Beat (#18) – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Random House

9780143786030

June 4, 2019

Puffin

 

RRP $16.99

Jacqueline Harvey knows exactly how to reach those high notes with her readers and the overwhelming popularity of her series, and certainly Alice-Miranda, is proof of that. The tiny girl with the big heart always plays her part in helping others, redressing injustices and solving mysteries.

Life at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies is at fever pitch with Miss Reedy acting as Head and an increasingly disgruntled and resentful staff. The new teacher Miss Crowley seems to really be a target for the short fuse of the acting headmistress.  Surely Miss Reedy cannot be as despotic as it would seem? Could there be some other hand at work behind the imperious orders and contradictory decisions?

At the same time a fire in the village which destroys the Abboud family home and restaurant causes huge consternation amongst both villagers and young ladies, with the resulting determination to help out the family to raise funds for re-building.

The spontaneous suggestion to hold a music festival strikes a resonant chord with many of the would-be helpers but not everyone is on board with it. Alice-Miranda is certainly keen particularly as she has a happy secret she’s been keeping which would mesh beautifully with the proposed event. But A-M is not the only one with a secret. Young Zahra Abboud is closely guarding her own hidden agenda while Alice-Miranda’s friend Jacinta is trying to fathom the mysterious reason behind her errant father’s sudden re-appearance.

Into the mix are the usual cast of characters of school mates, ‘boy’ friends, villagers and personalities of note with lots of interaction accompanying the main threads.

There is always so much to absorb in these stories primarily the abiding themes of kindness (often in the face of difficulty/hostility), compassion and resilience.

It is little wonder they are such a huge success with readers from 8 to mid-Secondary. I have so many kiddos who are literally panting and begging to get their hands on this new one first.

Congratulations Jacqueline on another fabulously orchestrated adventure! Now all that remains is for me to duck and weave the crash tackles when it arrives in the library 😊 ..!

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The Lily in the Snow: Book #3 Miss Lily – Jackie French

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Harper Collins

March 2019

ISBN: 9781460753842

ISBN 10: 1460753844

RRP 29.99 AUD

We devotees of Miss Lily have been waiting fairly impatiently for her return and I was thrilled when my copy arrived and immediately started immersing myself once more into the world of Sophie, Nigel and Miss Lily. However packing and moving house followed up by three weeks of the dreaded lurgy meant I was only ¾ through – until last Saturday when I binge read the remaining chapters because I just couldn’t wait any longer to find out the conclusion.

The Jazz Age has begun and Sophie and Nigel generally manage to ignore it living peacefully at Shillings watching their delightful twins growing up. There are concerns such as Sophie’s belief of an impending financial crash and her need to ensure the safe continuation of her father’s corned beef empire.  But long held secrets and intrigues threaten their idyll and the most significant of these will change their lives forever.

Responding to a request from their old colleague the pair help to uncover the identity of a badly injured veteran of the Great War which brings Sophie once again into contact with the mysterious ‘John’ from her Australian home. Questions surround the paternity of the Shillngs twins and the encounter with ‘John’ must resolve these.

A mysterious and ferocious young girl, Violette, turns up at Shillings after considerable mis-adventure and is intent on killing her mother whom she believes is Miss Lily: a circumstance which throws all kinds complications into the household.

And Sophie’s old friend Hannelore instigates what is tantamount to blackmail to enlist Miss Lily’s support of the man for whom she has developed a blind and misguided fervour, a German called Herr Hitler.

The tension and mystery of the narrative are superlative and once again Jackie’s undisputed skill in weaving fact with fiction provides the reader with a plot that unfolds with high drama and exquisite anticipation. One cannot help but become completely invested with these characters that become all but real as the series continue.

As always one is living within the story and the involvement is powerful with the conclusion thrilling and filled with twists and turns as only Jackie can achieve.

I truly hope this is not the last we see of this engaging saga and now we must wait with patience to see the next instalment.

An amazing and triumphant return of the story highly recommended for senior readers and adults.

Detention – Tristan Bancks

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Penguin Random House

Imprint: Puffin

July 2019

ISBN: 9780143799

RRP: $16.99

 

Just wow! Once again Tristan has crafted a sensational narrative with high-impact tension and thought-provoking themes which will keep readers eagerly turning pages.

Two young people are both, each in their own way, prisoners of sad circumstances. Sima, with her family, is detained in a centre for illegal immigrants and under threat of deportation after three years of trying to reach a safe haven, escaping violence and turmoil at the hands of the Taliban. Dan lives in a run-down caravan park on the edge of local society ostensibly with his mother, except she’s been absent for long periods engrossed with her new partner, leaving Dan to fend for himself. Both are desperate for escape.

When protestors help fifty detainees in a daring and dangerous flight from the centre, Sima is separated from her family and does her best to evade capture by hiding out in a toilet block at the local high school.

The school goes into lockdown as a result of the incident at the detention centre and Dan inadvertently becomes involved in Simi’s predicament. For both it is a delicate balance of trust and neither is confident of the response from adults such as Dan’s mum or his teacher but it seems that, almost unexpectedly, the morality of the issue outweighs the legality and help comes when it is least likely. After all, what price a life?

As the plot unfolds the reader becomes completely invested in the characters that are realised with a deft portraiture which is compelling and emotional without becoming cloying or stereotyped. Details which round each one out are often subtle and understated lending more weight to the overall picture. It is certainly clear that one cannot categorise people as simply one thing or another – good or bad, sympathetic or callous, that there are dichotomies in everyone. This viewpoint alone would give rise to much worthwhile and meaningful discussion with young readers.

Tristan points out that essentially he has written ‘a human story, rather than a political one’ with the ultimate goal of exploring the reactions, observations and actions of those dealing with difficult situations.  Despite this there is no doubt that for many readers there will be, like Dan’s teacher Miss Aston, opportunity to discuss and debate various aspects of current social conditions.

It’s never been difficult to ‘sell’ Tristan’s books to  my students and now the ripple effect is evident as more and more share their recommendation with peers but this one will be a block-buster I foresee. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts with our staff as I believe it will make a great read-aloud for Middle year students.

Don’t miss out – get your copy on order now!